Preparing Your Garden for Autumn
Even when summer comes to an end and the cooler days are right around the corner, tending to the garden is a year-long pastime. Autumn is a fantastic season for garden maintenance if you are not so fond of the hot, humid days.
This is the ideal time to condition the garden for spring and plant vegetable crops that can tolerate frosts, with the intent to harvest them right before the hard winter hits your area.
The first step in preparing your garden for autumn is to take a good look at your current landscape to determine which plants can survive the cold. Create an inventory of hardy plants and crops that you would like to grow in your garden.
A variety of spring flowering bulbs, such as crocus, tulips and daffodils, should be at the top of your list. For new vegetable plants and herbs, choose those that will be ready for harvest before the first bite of frost or others that don’t mind icy conditions.
Carefully clear out the remaining summer annuals, finished vegetables and other plants that you think will not last this season. Collect seeds from flower heads and store them in a dry place for next year’s planting.
Once the beds are free from weeds and other debris, apply some fertiliser or mulch the soil for nutrients. Water the garden and let it rest for a day. Start to tidy up the rest of your garden by raking up the fallen leaves and other dead foliage. Rather than burning the garden waste in a bonfire, consider recycling through composting.
If you are maintaining a garden pond, invest in durable pond netting or install a skimmer. Take note that decaying leaves that fall into the pond and are left unattended can generate toxins that can kill some aquatic life. The same can apply to dead water lilies and other floating plants, it is best to remove them before winter sets in.
Tender plants will have better protection from the cold wind when planted under large trees or at a higher level in your garden. When in doubt, place the tender plants first in containers so it is easy to bring them indoors or into a greenhouse when required. It is a good time to think about mulching or providing fleece protection for you semi hardy plants so that they are protected against unexpected early frosts.
Watering your plants is extremely important at this time of year, as your garden needs to survive the dry air and long periods of reduced soil moisture. Generous application of organic mulch to the soil will not only insulate new plants from the sudden changes in temperature, but will also help the soil to retain moisture. Even the hardy perennials will enjoy a thick layer of mulch at their base to keep them hydrated. Shrubs and trees can be wrapped up and supported by stakes.
As a result of our autumns becoming increasingly warmer and drier over recent years, it is safe to say that spring and summer are not the only growing seasons. With enough research and effective garden maintenance techniques, you can create a colourful garden right outside your window, highlighted with a bountiful fruit and vegetable harvest, in autumn and even in early winter.